Active Listening Skills for Today's Family

Julie Court

With technology constantly influencing our lives, we can protect our most vital and important family relationships by developing strong listening skills. In today’s fast-paced world, our ability to stay in touch with friends and family can conveniently be reduced to text messages that can easily result in misunderstandings and hurt feelings. How do we prevent this from leading to strife and broken relationships?

Meaningful relationships are developed through healthy and effective communication. The successful exchange of thoughts, facts, or feelings has transfer lanes going in both directions. The cooperative process known as active listening ensures this exchange.

The skill of active listening is a simple and effective tool to ensure good communication.

Active listening is the conscious and deliberate act of listening to another person with the goal of hearing and comprehending the intended meaning of the words spoken. We can develop the required skill set by practicing the entire active listening process. Using this tool will close the communication gap in our personal and business lives. When we are not getting our message across or sense frustration in someone else, we can take out the tool of active listening and easily get back on track.

Active listening helps us slow down and work toward mutual understanding.

The active listening method is based on consciously tuning your ears to listen to what the other person is conveying and summarizing the message back to them.

We have the power to change the tone of any argument the moment we choose to listen. Being heard changes the atmosphere and helps to lower the defenses of both people. When we really hear each other’s points of view, a solution is usually right around the corner.

After a breakdown in communication, it is helpful to slow the process down by clearly defining the speaking and listening roles. If we are constantly interrupting or unable to focus, we can assign someone the speaker role by having them hold a simple object like a pen. There is only one speaker at a time; the other person’s job is to listen to gain understanding. When we concentrate only on listening and repeating back what was communicated, the process increases the likelihood of mutual understanding by both people.

The active listening process is simple. Whoever is currently speaking has the “floor” and holds a small object such as a pen. The listener focuses on hearing the speaker’s perspective, especially if it isn’t what he or she wants to hear. When the speaker is done talking, he or she transfers the right to speak by handing the pen to the listener. The listener paraphrases what they have heard the speaker say. The pen is given back to the speaker who will either confirm the listener has heard correctly, or give the listener more details until the speaker’s message becomes clear. As the two people alternate in exploring one side of the issue, the cycle with the pen continues until the concept has been transmitted and received correctly.

After the first person’s point of view has successfully been heard, the listener and the speaker switch roles. The process repeats itself until the second person’s point of view has also been fully communicated. A solution usually presents itself during the process of both people cooperating to be heard.

Active listening communicates interest.

Listening can be hard work. If we keep one eye on our computer, TV, or cell phone while we are talking with people, we silently scream a lack of interest in what they are sharing. For important conversations, eye contact with the other person communicates active interest. Don’t rush through the silences; just enjoy being in their presence.

Waiting for the other person’s response communicates how important they are to us. When we take the time to pay attention, it conveys we care. Caring means much more than anything else we could do for our friends and family. Having someone else take the time to listen is sometimes all a friend or family member needs at the moment.

Active listening is an effective tool that can be used by people of all ages to communicate with the intent of gaining mutual understanding. We communicate love and respect by being fully invested and giving our family and friends the time and care they need to communicate their dreams, needs, instructions, or questions. Protect your greatest asset, your family, by becoming a great listener.

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